Conflict Article

‘No room to say, We can’t’

Another day of doing the impossible at the Republican Hospital in Saada

Walking the seemingly endless hallways in the Republican Hospital of Saada Governorate, the chief physician, Dr. Abdulaziz, makes his everyday rounds, checking on dozens of patients and passing through the emergency room to verify everything is in order.

It’s not a big facility, but it’s a critical one.  Located north of Saada city, it’s only one of the few “reference” hospitals in the area that can take referrals of more complex cases. But due to the ongoing conflict, this hospital, like many other health facilities here, face overwhelming challenges. There are frequent electricity cuts, a chronic lack of supplies and constant security concerns. Meanwhile, many health professionals work without pay as there’s no money for salaries.

“Our work is pure humanitarian, so there is no room for us to stop or say, ‘We can’t’. The lives of patients and the lives of many people depend on this hospital and if we stopped, they may die due to lack of services.”

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Standing in front of a destroyed home in the city of Saada, Dr. Abdulaziz reflects on the effects that seven years of conflict has had on his community, on the hospital and on health workers. During the first days of conflict, he recalls, wounded patients were continuously rushed to the hospital to seek help. Health workers continue to be subjected to great pressures to deliver aid and immediate attention, on top of all the in-patient treatments they provide.

One of the greatest challenges that this hospital faces is the enormous pressure that it bears, receiving many cases, not only from Saada but from neighbouring regions and governorates, as it is one of the few hospitals that offer in-patient and overnight care”.
Dr. Abdulaziz

Outside the emergency room, Dr. Abdulaziz answers questions and listens to the concerns of patients who’ve come seeking urgent care.

The emergency unit receives dozens of cases every day, many of them brought by Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) ambulance crews.

While some of the patients are suffering from injuries directly related to the conflict, many arrive due to indirect health impacts such as malnutrition and diseases caused by non-functioning water and sanitation systems. “The most satisfying thing for me is when we manage to save the life of a patient who was about to die and when we provide the services that take away someone’s pain and sickness. These are the things that make us feel satisfied with our work”.

One of the patients Dr Abdulaziz checks on is 17-year-old Seham Saleem, one of the many patients with kidney failure who receive dialysis treatment at the Republican Hospital.

Kidney failure patients in Saada come to the Republican Hospital two to three times a week  to receive treatment. The conflict means that treatable, chronic diseases such as kidney failure can become fatal. Frequent power cuts interrupt dialysis while across Yemen, many hospitals are working with worn-down machines, power cuts and insufficient staff. According to the ICRC, as much as 25 per cent of dialysis patients in Yemen have died every year since conflict began in 2015.

Almost every day, the malnutrition department in the Republican Hospital receives between 35 and 40 children. Their cases are divided between acute and chronic malnutrition. These patients are supported with treatment and receive appropriate nutrition until their conditions improve.

In 2021, the United Nations estimated that 2.3 million children under five were estimated to be at risk of acute malnutrition and another 400,000 at risk of severe malnutrition.

Yemen faces the world’s largest food security emergency, leaving nearly 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In the face of so many shortages and hardships, Dr. Abdulaziz is extremely proud that the Republican Hospital has risen to meet the challenges.  That pride is shared by others, such as Yemen Red Crescent staff and volunteers, who have joined in the effort by helping to run a number of activities within the hospital. Some of them work at the ICRC Limb Center, which offers prosthetics and physical rehabilitation therapy to people who have lost arms and legs.

Whoever knew this hospital years ago would not believe what it has now become,” says Dr. Abdulaziz, who reflects on how the expansion of the hospital has enabled them to help even more people on a daily basis. “Years ago, there was not even a single case of overnight hospitalization…it was just small clinics that provided good services. But now, it provides many services and receives hundreds of cases daily.”

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